Hiram pours another cup of tea for Kat. This is his first chance to see her in relative peace and quiet, and without Nick, since she got back. He glances at his Companion du jour.
Hiram: More tea, Ecklam?
Ecklam: Thanks, Hiram.
Ecklam is a medium TN-1 of about Hiram's age, who remembers Hiram as a gawky new channel and uncertain new Sectuib and retains some of his attitudes from that period.
Hiram nods and pours. It was a rough turnover this month, and Ecklam, while he's not up to Hiram's capacity, has as smooth and soothing a nager as anyone in Sat'htine. He returns his attention to Kat.
Katsura sips her tea, trying not to feel that Hiram has purposely put her at a disadvantage by asking her to come without Nick.
Hiram: It's good to have you back home, Kat.
Katsura: It's very good to be back, Sectuib.
Hiram: I've read your report, and it's most thorough, but now I want to know...
Hiram sets down his own tea, and zlins Kat intensely.
Katsura obediently drops her showfield. She has nothing to hide, right?
Hiram: What do you think you learned during all your adventures?
Katsura: Well, I certainly learned a lot about people across the border. All kinds of people. And how to move among them without getting too badly stressed.
Hiram: Was your sensitivity more of an asset, or a handicap?
Ecklam rolls his eyes at this question, but doesn't allow it to affect his field.
Katsura: It was certainly a handicap at first, in Cottonwood City. Once I learned more of what to expect from out-T Gens, who have no notion of controlling their nagers, it was less of a problem.
Katsura thinks "expect the unexpected" is a good rule for dealing with out-T Gens.
Hiram notices his Companion's gesture, and raises an inquisitive eyebrow.
Hiram: You had a comment, Ecklam?
Ecklam: I think I'd like to hear the rest of Katsura's answer.
Hiram nods and ripples his dorsals in the gesture for "continue".
Katsura: Nick was very useful in protecting me from the worst and helping me learn what to expect and how to approach these Gens. I came to find them interesting and challenging, and would have liked to develop friendships with several.
Hiram: Who, in particular?
Katsura: There was a woman I met at the Pollovics' party. Her mother was a refugee from Nivet before Unity, and she has a surprisingly positive attitude toward us, although she's married to a senator whose views are rather conservative.
Ecklam: Hmm. Was it his views, or his constituents' views, that were conservative?
Katsura: Unfortunately I only spoke to her for a few minutes, and we left New Washington a day later.
Hiram: You could write to her. Begin a correspondence.
Ecklam nods approvingly.
Katsura: Perhaps. My letters may not be welcome, but I can only find out by trying.
Hiram: I'd recommend you use plain stationery, and not the House letterhead and envelopes. Don't make it look like an official missive.
Katsura: Yes. And perhaps use our box number for a return address.
Katsura figures it will still be obviously from Nivet, but maybe less so.
Hiram: Was there anyone else?
Katsura: Well, I met a number of people, mainly women, whom I wouldn't mind corresponding with occasionally. I've already written to Virla in Gumgeeville, thanking her for her help again. Nick and I rather like Eulalia, dragon though she may be. ~~ humor ~~
Ecklam: Eulalia Pollovic, the one Nick impressed with his rose-potting skills?
Katsura: Yes. Perhaps the two of them can exchange cuttings.
Hiram smiles. The written descriptions of Eulalia reminded him of some aging channels he's known.
Ecklam: That would be a connection very much worth keeping up, eh, Hiram?
Hiram: Indeed. What did you think of the senator himself?
Katsura: He's very well-meaning, despite being a rather late convert to a more hands-on version of Unity. I've invited him to visit us if he's ever in Nivet.
Ecklam: Wow. Officially as a senator, or unofficially as Mr. Pollovic?
Katsura: Either. It would be up to him how to handle it. He certainly understands the political implication on his side better than we would. I doubt he'll be able to take us up on our offer anyway.
Hiram: Why not?
Katsura: It might be a bit over the top for his colleagues. Many of them already feel he's too pro-Sime for the good of their territory.
Hiram: Actually, I've just received a letter from him, about the possibility of a visit during the Senate's summer recess.
Katsura: Really? How interesting. Will he be coming to Nivet for other purposes as well?
Hiram: Actually, from the way it's worded, I'm not sure whether his purpose is to learn more about us, or to stage another of his wild publicity stunts.
Ecklam: Let's hope it's mostly the former and only slightly the latter.
Hiram is not entirely impressed by what he's read of Pollovic in the New Washington press, but the man seemed much more likeable in Kat's reports.
Hiram: Or possibly a honeymoon?
Katsura: Oh my.
Ecklam: That would be a publicity stunt to beat all.
Hiram: I don't know how much I should read between the lines.
Katsura: Seruffin might be your best interpreter. He seems to understand these senators quite well.
Hiram: I was hoping you might understand this particular one. I'd rather keep this in-House, at least until we're sure whether this is a public or private visit he's planning.
Katsura: I'll be glad to read it and give you my not-very-knowledgeable opinion. It might be best to ask him for clarification.
Hiram pushes the letter across the table to Kat. The wording is very dry and simple:
(appropriate titles and salutations)
Hajene Katsura was generous enough to invite me to visit your House should the opportunity ever arise. I'm considering the possibility of a trip to Nivet this summer, during the Senate's recess. Would this be acceptable to you?
(appropriate titles and signature)
P.S. Please give my greetings to Hajene Katsura.
Hiram: You see? It doesn't really say much.
Ecklam: He could hardly be more vague if he tried with both hands.
Hiram: Any guesses, Kat?
Katsura: Perhaps we could reply indicating that he's welcome but that we expect it not to be a media circus. Diplomatically, of course.
Hiram: Of course.
Katsura: He really did go out on a limb having us at his home, and at his party.
Hiram: The one thing I don't doubt, in all the mixed reports of him, is that he has become sincere in his support of Unity.
Katsura: I agree. But his actions are regarded by some as extreme, and that may make it more difficult to be effective in support of Unity.
Hiram decides it's time to turn the focus back onto Kat herself.
Hiram: What else did you learn during your travels?
Katsura: I learned a fair bit about Nick, how he's likely to react, what he can do for a channel, what he's like as a person as well as a Companion.
Katsura's nager ~~ warms ~~ as she thinks about Nick.
Katsura: Well, also what kinds of... inadvisable... things he's likely to do, and under what circumstances.
Hiram studies the younger channel speculatively.
Hiram: If we were able to bring up his capacity as we've discussed, what sort of First Companion do you think he would make in, say, five years?
Katsura: As a Companion, very hardworking, dedicated and supportive. As a politician or diplomat or administrator...
Ecklam: Hiram, Hiram.
Ecklam shakes his head.
Ecklam: First she's supposed to know which of her assets are handicaps (or vice versa), and now you expect her to prophesy the future? But go ahead, Kat; I didn't mean to interrupt. ~~ ha ! ~~
Hiram grins at Ecklam.
Katsura smiles at Ecklam too. ~~ affection ~~
Hiram: She's my Heir, Naztehr. And everyone knows a Sectuib is supposed to perform eight different assorted miracles a day. Ten, if it's turnover day. And double that for anyone with the Farris surname.
Ecklam: As the only non-Farris in the room, I suppose I should count my blessings, then.
Ecklam has had to pull off a miracle or two in his day as well.
Katsura: I can't speculate on his future abilities for the non-Companionate aspects of the job. However, he's in much better shape psychologically than he was before, and now that he can relax and feel confident and settled he may expand his abilities in unexpected directions. He's already pretty good at miracles, nagerically.
Hiram: Hmm. Historically, you know, the Sectuib in Sat'htine has almost always been married before taking office.
Katsura: We've had few female Sectuibs. Childbearing is so risky for Farris channels, and why else marry?
Ecklam: Well, to cement alliances, I suppose. Not that that applies much nowadays.
Hiram: Why else have a friend to go home to, even during the first half of your cycle? Why bother to have one link in your life that transcends all matters of selyn? I don't know, Hajene. You tell me.
Hiram thinks fondly of his own wife, whom he misses more each year.
Hiram: Childbearing is the least of it, you know. Only one of my children was with my own wife.
Katsura: Perhaps when I find the right man. I certainly don't want to rush into anything. An unmarried Sectuib is certainly preferable to a divorced one.
Hiram nods. He's learned what he wanted to; despite Kat's obvious fondness for Nick, she's not likely to rush into anything further with him.
Hiram takes a slow sip of his cooling tea to indicate a change of topic.
Hiram: What of yourself, Kat? What did your adventures teach you about yourself?
Katsura: That I can be stronger than I expected I could. At Cottonwood City I was rather afraid of the Gens at first -- not of what they might do intentionally, but of what they might do without intention, given my extra vulnerability due to my extreme sensitivity.
Katsura: But I went ahead and did my best, and although I got Genslammed and had some very unpleasant experiences, I came through them all right with Nick's expert help.
Hiram nods approvingly. Trust in one's Companion is a necessary, but sometimes fragile thing. He glances sideways at Ecklam.
Katsura: I also learned that I can manage in some rather fraught situations by remaining calm and acting decisively. That showing respect to people who are hostile or afraid of me works well to defuse the danger they represent.
Katsura thinks about being in a snow pit with a hostile Gen, and another Gen pointing a rifle at her.
Hiram: That's as true in politics as it is for more physical crises.
Ecklam: Indeed. Politics is just people-tics, really.
Hiram turns to the Gen, who's old enough to have known more than one Sectuib in Sat'htine.
Hiram: If I were to die tomorrow, Ecklam, what would you want to know about your new Sectuib?
Ecklam: Whether she knew where you hide the good stuff!
Ecklam ~~ chuckles ~~.
Katsura: I suppose Lusinka would tell me. ~~ humor ~~
Hiram: Second drawer in the left-hand filing cabinet, of course.
Hiram is referring to the drawer where he stores the Naros blend trin. He lets his manner turn suddenly serious again.
Hiram: When you took Nick's oath to Sat'htine...?
Hiram: In that moment when you felt him place his whole self in your hands... what did you feel?
Katsura: Joy. Gratitude. Compassion. Love.
Hiram nods, ~~ satisfied ~~ .
Hiram: And perhaps a brief moment of awe?
Ecklam: Sounds like she's got it, eh, Hiram?
Hiram: Yes, Ecklam. She's got it.
Katsura looks down, but ~~ smiles ~~.